100807 Congress And The Metaverse Metanomics Transcript

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Metanomics is a weekly Web-based show on the serious uses of virtual worlds. This transcript is from a past show.

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100807 Congress And The Metaverse Metanomics Transcript

  1. 1. U.S. CONGRESS LOOKS AT THE METAVERSE 57 MILES: Hello everyone. Welcome to Metaversed Island and the Metanomics ‘07. My name is Nick Wilson in real life, and I am 57 Miles in Second Life. Metanomics is hosted by Professor Robert Bloomfield and the Cornell Johnson Graduate School of Management. We're very pleased to have with us today Dan Miller, the Senior Economist at the Joint Economics Committee. Robert we'll give you a little bit more info on Dan, a little bit on Dan's background in just a moment. But before we start, I would like to thank some of the folks that make all these events possible. Metaverse Island the main sponsor is a group called Other Land. You can find them at otherland-group.com. They are responsible for all of what you see here, and they do a fantastic job. I'd also like to thank the partners of Metaverse, the companies that are really walking the walk in Second Life and actually doing this stuff every day. And they make all of these things possible financially, and provide a lot of the infrastructure and a lot of the things that we need to make our events happen. Those people are Sun Microsystems, Cisco Systems, Kelly Services, Saxo Bank, Generali, our newest partner, and SAP. Lastly, don't forget that you can watch this event and, indeed, all of the Metanomics events, on video over at SLCN.TV. SLCN's live camera crews are responsible, in large part, for making these events accessible to everyone, and we do thank them because, without them,
  2. 2. they would be a shallow event former selves. If you have questions for Robert or Dan during this discussion, please IM me. It makes things a lot easier if I can pass these on through Skype to Robert, who is sitting with Christian over at Cisco Systems in California. So please right click the bald guy with the black T-shirt. I'll be stage left; I will be on your right and choose “IM” and ask your questions. I will make sure they get in front of Robert. Without further ado, please welcome Robert Bloomfield. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, thanks a lot, Nick, “57,” for that introduction and producing yet another Metanomics series event. As Nick said, I am here in San Jose, California, at Cisco headquarters, building nine, with Christian Renaud just getting ready for the Virtual World's conference, which is taking place here for the remainder of the week. So we should have a lot of interesting things to talk about later on. Just a couple things that I wanted to mention coming up. First, next week, the 15th, we're going to have a show on Second Life Fashion. We'll be following that up with Brian Camp, a law professor at Texas Tech, talking about tax law for virtual worlds. And then we're going to have Gene Yoon, Ginsu Linden, and he's known as the architect of the economy in Second Life and also is now heading up business affairs. So we'll be talking about in-world, as well as real world economic aspects of Second Life. Okay. Without further ado, let me introduce you all to Dan Miller, senior economist for the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress. Dan is a staff member employed by Jim
  3. 3. Saxton, who is the ranking Republican on the Joint Economic Committee, and also a Congressman from New Jersey. So Dan, hello. DAN MILLER: Hello; good to be here. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Great. So actually I understand, before we get into any details, you have an important disclaimer you want to make. You want to go ahead and do that now? DAN MILLER: Yes, I'll go ahead and do that now. I just want to make clear that anything I say here, I'm speaking on behalf of me. I'm not stating official committee policy. I'm not representing a specific Congressman. So if you attribute any of the views that I state here, attribute them to me and to me only. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay, great. That is understood. DAN MILLER: That’s sort of standard boiler plate disclaimer. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah. I actually make the same thing when I talk about the Financial Accounting Standards Board. So before we get into details I was hoping I might talk a little bit just about who you are and who the Joint Economic Committee is. So first of all, can you tell us a little bit about the JEC and how you got there? DAN MILLER: The JEC was created back in the ‘40s after World War II. We are the sister
  4. 4. organization to the President's Council of Economic Advisors. When people ask me to describe what the JEC does, I say that we are sort of like an internal think tank for Congress, and we focus on economic issues and we advise members of Congress on the impact of legislation on public policy, on the economy and economic issues, generally. Myself I started working for the JEC back in the early ‘90s and I've left a couple of times and came back, and I work on a number of different areas, risk management and insurance issues. I do a lot of tax policy, especially estate taxes, fiscal policy in general. Some labor policy. And lately I've been doing a lot of work on the virtual economy and the economics of virtual worlds. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So what got you interested in this topic that we love so much, but most people I talk to have never even heard of the issue? How did you get into that? DAN MILLER: Well, I got into it because I'm a gamer. I've lost many hours of my life to World of Warcraft and some of the other massively, multi-player online role playing games. And as I followed these games on the Internet and on some of the sites dedicated to these games, I kept seeing rumors or allusions made to taxing profits made within the game. And to me, that's like, oh, you have got to be kidding. They can't be seriously talking about that. I started looking into the issue a little bit, and I saw, well, you know, somebody could make a serious argument based on existing tax law that you should tax this stuff. And so I thought that it would make an interesting issue for the committee to take a look at. And we brought it up and it's something we've been looking at for about a year now. And so really it came out
  5. 5. of my personal interest, then it became a professional interest. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I see. Well, I guess that's an interesting way to see our tax dollars at work and I'm glad to know The World of Warcraft can lead to new legislative outlooks in public policy. So the first question--and actually let me say first to the audience that--I mean I've got a huge list of questions here, things I would love to hear Dan talking about, but we want to give you opportunities, as well, to ask questions. So if you have questions really start typing them right away, sending them to 57 Miles. If you just right click on him and then choose “send instant message,” and he will pass them on. If you send them to me, I probably won't see them, given the way I am doing this stuff on my computer. But we definitely want to hear your questions. Feel free also to engage in backchat. Type the chats so that we can see how what we are doing is going over for you, and if you’re reacting to what people are saying, that would be great as well. So anyway, the first question that I have for you, Dan, is given that you're like the think tank and you're presumably not only up there trying to figure out how legislators should deal with virtual worlds, but [AUDIO GAP] you're also sensitive to what they are thinking about right now, and what types of legislation are most likely to be coming through Congress. So I'm wondering if you can just give us a sense of what topics are most likely to be the big ones that we're going to see?
  6. 6. DAN MILLER: Okay. You know, there are a number of different public policy aspects to virtual worlds. The one that got me involved and we've already touched upon is the question of taxes. If you make money in a virtual world, be it Second Life, or World of Warcraft, [AUDIO GAP] virtual property rights. And that’s something that will need to be addressed. I think, as I've researched the issue and talked to a lot of people in government, where I think you're most likely to see the first sort of government intervention or government regulation is going to be how it relates to virtual crime and terrorism. Because, just like any economic need [AUDIO GAP] be in virtual--you know, virtual economies represents an opportunity for criminals to exploit and abuse. And I think that could be the first legislation you see would be something to clarify existing tax laws or granting additional powers to the FBI or a regulatory body. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So if I could start out with the second thing, when you talk about terrorism--actually, I see Nite Zelmanov is asking a question, saying, “You know, when you talk about terrorism, is it really money laundering that’s sort of the starting point of this?” DAN MILLER: Well, when you talk about crime and virtual worlds, I sort of see two general groupings. One the one hand you have your garden variety criminal type in money laundering illegal cash transfers; that's one thing. I think that basically--you know, I know for a fact that some law enforcement agencies are looking at this particular angle. But the other sort of aspect to this, besides the law-and-order type of crime, is how terrorists
  7. 7. might potentially use virtual worlds. I mean you could certainly think of scenarios in which a terrorist organization or a terrorist cell could use a virtual world to, say, conduct a dry run of a particular terrorist attack they want to launch. Like if they wanted to launch a terrorist attack on a particular building, they could construct a three-dimensional version of the building and they could run through dry runs, practice what they need to do. They could practice any number of things. They could also use virtual worlds to transfer money so that the financial backers of terrorism could finance the terrorist cells in other countries. And you could see virtual worlds being used just for communication. Now, a lot of this stuff can happen on the Internet. It doesn't require--there's nothing necessarily unique except for maybe some of the three-dimensional practice stuff. You know, a lot of this stuff could already happen on the Internet, but I think that you could see terrorists using it in Second Life. Or, I don't mean to single out Second Life; you know, they could do it in a different virtual world. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yes, so Igor(?) is interested in the last thing that you were just talking about, which is that virtual worlds are just an online technology. We have a lot of new laws through the Patriot Act, for example, that have changed the privacy of online transactions. So do you think it's likely that, at least on that front, on the money laundering, on the surveillance of activities in virtual worlds, do you think that there's going to be new legislation that's actually going to be necessary to deal with that? DAN MILLER: Getting legislation passed in Congress is an extraordinarily difficult task. I think you're much more likely to see regulations handed down by the Treasury Department
  8. 8. or the Justice Department or an independent agency which addresses this stuff. And I think a lot of the concern here is over the potential for abuse, not necessarily the actual abuse that is occurring, because there's not really evidence of widespread use of virtual worlds to launder money. I think that when your FBI agent on the ground starts turning up evidence that their local drug dealer, instead of laundering money through a car wash, they start laundering it through a clothing shop in a virtual world, you know, once they start seeing that it's going to filter up through the organization, and there's going to be feedback and request for new powers, maybe, that require legislation. So if there were to be legislation on this aspect, I don't see it as being imminent. I see it as being down the road a little bit. RICHARD BLOOMFIELD: I have to say this discussion is simply lighting up the board here, both on the comments that are being sent to 57, and passed on to me, some of them, by the way, people listening online, not in Second Life, but through SLCN.TV. So a shout out to all you people out there who are not fitting onto our island. There also are loads of questions in the chat and many of the first ones go back to taxation, which you were talking about at the top. So let's talk about this a little bit. And I guess the first question that I have for you is, in your personal view, or in the way that you've heard people on the Hill talk about it, should we be viewing Lindens, actually, as money? Because it's very difficult to argue if someone is getting money that they're not going to be taxed. And so it seems like that's an issue we need to get out of the way up front. Do you see Lindens as money?
  9. 9. DAN MILLER: No, I don't, not in the official sense. It's not a sovereign currency. There is no nation backing the currency. I see it more as being analogous to, say, gambling chips. I'm not saying that Lindens are gambling chips; I'm saying it's analogous to it. It's a privately issued item that has real economic value to it. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Actually, this is one case where I know a little more, enough to be dangerous on the EU side of things than in the U.S., but in the EU digital currency, you know, one of the big requirements here is whether it's being used as a medium of transaction between parties that are entirely independent of the issuer, of the medium. And so in this case, for example, it seems to me unclear if two people are in Second Life using the platform, trading materials through the medium of Lindens that seems dubious. If they were doing it on a street corner here in San Jose, it would then be very clearly viewed as some sort of digital currency separate from the service provider and issuer. Is that how I ought to be thinking about it here in the U.S.? DAN MILLER: Well, as far as I know--and I'm not a lawyer and I'm not a historian--the last time we really had legislation dealing with definitions of money in the U.S., and currencies-- well, I think there was some discussion of it with the creation of the Federal Reserve at the first part of the last century but also in the period following the Civil War before Reconstruction, or during Reconstruction. So a lot of the laws on the topic in the U.S., at least, are rather old, and they were done well before there was any concept of the word “digital” much less a digital currency. And that does give rise to an interesting question about the tax aspect of it.
  10. 10. And I think that the way some tax lawyers would say, "If you saw two people trading these items on the street corner, it is a question of not currency, it is a trading of assets." I mean, if I'm on a street corner and I give you my watch and you give me your cell phone, that's not a digital currency. It's just an asset transfer. And so it gives rise to the suggestion that the proper tax treatment is to treat virtual currencies as barter. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Let's see. Yes. So when we get into the world of barter-- and barter is generally a taxable transaction. Do you think it's just a matter of time before the IRS starts saying, "Look, we tax barter if it's something that you can hold in your hand. There's nothing in the tax law that distinguishes between something you can hold in your hand and something pretty you can look at online, so here we come." You can just see the paperwork issues. Someone--actually Scarlett P(?)--asked, “What sort of tax documentation should we be keeping now for when the IRS comes in? Do you think that's something we should be expecting sometime soon?” DAN MILLER: Well, that's hard to say. I mean the first part of your question is about the IRS. You know, frankly, my own personal opinion is that it's not a question of when the IRS steps in to take a look at this stuff or to try to tax in-world income, it's a question of when. It's when, not if. Because I'm of the belief that these virtual economies, especially like Second Life, and Foreigntropia, or even some of the gaming-oriented worlds, as the dollar volume becomes more and more significant, the IRS is going to say, "Wait a second." You know, people are letting--they're shielding income by putting it into a virtual world, or we could make additional money just by issuing an IRS bulletin on the topic.
  11. 11. So in terms of the ability question, that could be the first official word. There's not going to be legislation from Congress but a regulation issued by the IRS saying that the stuff--these transactions in virtual worlds counts as barter income. And I think one of the key issues with barter income is not the form of it in terms of whether or not you can touch it and hold it, it's going to be--does it have a measurable economic value to it? And if it does--if you could place a dollar value on a trade, then yes. You know, they're going to go after it. Just a couple of sentences here on the history of barter tax law. You had a lot of barter clubs that formed in the 1960s and ‘70s and really they were a means where a plumber would fix the pipes for a lawyer and the lawyer would prepare a will for the plumber. Now, the IRS eventually stepped in in the early 1980s--1980, ‘81, ‘82. They issued a series of rulings which said the value of a will is, say, $250. So, you know, if you receive the services of a lawyer in preparing a will, then you have to report on your taxable income. There's actually a barter income form, you know, $250. And so the IRS--it took them more than a decade to respond to the development of these barter clubs, but once they did they came in and they said, “We're going to start taxing this stuff,” and barter clubs pretty much disappeared overnight. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, we actually have one thriving in Ithaca, New York, home of Cornell University. We have something called Ithaca Dollars. So it's not exactly barter because they've created something that is a quasi currency, and you trade your dollars to someone else when they give you a service or a product, and you can use it around town. And in fact, the IRS did step in, and it's taxable. So it made a lot of people in Ithaca very
  12. 12. unhappy. And if you know Ithaca at all, they tend not to be free-market, low-tax Republicans in Ithaca. So interesting little dynamic there. You know, we're actually having someone come to talk extensively about taxation of virtual worlds in a few weeks, so I don't want to spend too much time on this topic. I'd like to move on to a set of other questions that we've been getting from, for example, Bogart Beck, who's watching on SLCN.TV, and Charlotte Bartlett who, I believe, is right here on Metaverse Island. And the questions are about the virtual world stock exchanges and the banks. At this point my understanding is that Linden Lab is keeping their hands off this. They are simply saying, “We don't deal much with internal disputes and so, if you give your money to someone in exchange for their promises, that's your deal.” And as far as I know, the SEC, the state banking authorities, commodities and futures trading commission, they are not jumping in to deal with these exchanges. But maybe you know something that I don't. So can you tell us is there an outlook on that front, securities regulation, banking regulation? DAN MILLER: I can tell you that I've not heard anything at least from the government side about regulating this stuff. I think part of the issue is that these financial market regulatory bodies--they've already got pretty full plates right now, and there's a certain learning curve that has to be overcome for them to tackle the issue of virtual worlds. But again, it's going to come down to, I think, a question of scope. And once the scope, or the scale, of financial markets in virtual worlds reaches a certain size--you know, there's no magical number but assuming they reach a certain point, you're going to have somebody
  13. 13. start to take notice. And it may be a series of newspaper articles, or it could just be someone like me that’s working at the SEC that says, "Wait a second, somebody needs to take a look at this stuff." ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah. So Musimba Yellowknife has written in chat here that, “People consider Second Life a game, so there shouldn't be any regulation. As you analyze this, does that come into it? Does it matter whether it is a game or not?” DAN MILLER: No, it does not matter. The intent of the medium, or the intent of the income is completely irrelevant as to its taxability. So some people, like Brian Camp--and I believe Brian Camp does--who is going to be here talking to you on the tax question-- ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yes. DAN MILLER They have to draw a line, say, between Second Life, which sort of embraces its commercial aspect and then you have the game world like World of Warcraft, which is purely game, and you need to have two systems, or they should be treated differently. I think that's a very difficult argument to make and to sustain. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, in fact, the games are where the big money is, right? DAN MILLER: Mm-hmm, yeah. I mean you look at the registration numbers--I don't follow Second Life registration numbers on a daily basis but they're up in the nine million range. But if you look at the number of people that have logged in in the last 30 days, it's probably
  14. 14. about 950,000, maybe? So it's less than a million, I think, the last time I checked. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah. I think it's even lower than that, as I recall. DAN MILLER: It could be, could be. And then if you look at the real act of [courts?], even smaller. With World of Warcraft, you've got nine million gamers that are paying money on a monthly basis to participate in this world. So they're all going to be somewhat committed because, otherwise, they wouldn't be paying money to have an account. So, yeah, they really are the 800-pound gorilla on the scene. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Now, I think I agree with you that the distinction between game and not game doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But there is a different distinction that might be more important, which is the intellectual property rights that are handed over according to the end-user license agreement. So for example, World of Warcraft officially forbids you from selling your goods. And, in fact, there's a huge market. I've heard in these transactions that are explicitly forbidden by game- based sites are somewhere upward of $2 billion dollars a year, globally, much of that not in the U.S. Do you see that as being a big issue in your analysis? DAN MILLER: In a way, yes. Let me touch upon a couple of things here. One is the prohibition in, say, World of Warcraft. And when I say World of Warcraft, I'm just sort of generically referring to all gaming worlds like World of Warcraft. So I don't mean to single out one particular game. But they say, “Well, you're not allowed to take your gold pieces or
  15. 15. your killing demons or what have you and sell it and make money.” Well, you're not allowed to scalp tickets either, but you still have to pay taxes on it. So, you know-- ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: That was an excellent comparison. DAN MILLER: Yeah. I mean, look at how the IRS goes after criminals for tax evasion on money that they made illegally. Even if they can't prove the underlying crime by which they came by the money, they can still send the guy away to jail for not paying his income taxes. So prohibition is not irrelevant, but it doesn't absolve gaming worlds of the tax liability that may arise. The second point is, yes, there are these U(?) laws in the terms of service agreement or terms of use agreements. The question still remains--it has not been completely addressed as to the enforceability of these game worlds, or of these agreements. And Second Life has received a fair amount of publicity because they got sued by one of their users who--they terminated his account and he lost I believe it was several thousand dollars, maybe close to $10,000 dollars when Second Life, or Linden Lab, closed his account. And so he sued to get his account back. And actually, I think it was just this past week that the Linden Lab reached an out-of-court settlement. So we don't know exactly what the terms of that agreement were, but that case could have provided some insight as to how courts are going to treat these agreements. There are some legal scholars that argue that they're not really enforceable, for a number of reasons. I don't want to go into it, because I'm afraid I would misstate them, not being a
  16. 16. lawyer myself. But there was one, I think, key development in that, at one point while the case was still pending, the court ruled against one of the provisions in Linden Labs’ terms of use agreement and said that this provision, which was the provision in dispute at this hearing, was not enforceable. Well, if courts go around saying that these terms of service agreements, or the U(?) laws, are not enforceable, that creates some very significant issues. And who knows how that will fall out? But anyway, so-- ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. We're starting to get toward the end of our time, and there's a big set of topics that we haven't gotten to yet, which is I guess more on the social side. And in particular here in Second Life people are very aware of the laws governing, for example, child pornography, gambling, things like that. But in other worlds it seems likely, to me anyway, that there's going to be a much bigger issue of child safety since, in fact, the number of people using Webkinz, for example, is huge. It dwarfs a world like Second Life, and maybe even World of Warcraft. And they're all kids. So maybe that's not part of the Joint Economic Committee's purview, but is that something that you see coming on the horizon on the Hill? DAN MILLER: I think it certainly could. It depends on what happens. I mean there could be some situation or inappropriate behavior that occurs in Webkinz or Disney's Virtual Magic Kingdom or one of these other worlds. But you're right. They're enormous. My Habbo Hotel has something like 80 million avatars, or characters, that have been created. Eighty million.
  17. 17. That's huge. And that's not really an area that we get into, in terms of child protection issues. We stick more to the economic issues. I think the interesting angle on that, at least from my perspective, is the take-up rate among kids to these virtual worlds is much higher than it is, as you would expect, among older age groups. And I think this speaks very strongly to the long-term viability of virtual worlds because in five, ten, fifteen years, the kids that are nailing Webkinz, or the Disney worlds, they're going to be moving up to more adult-oriented worlds. And when they're in the workforce they're going to be totally comfortable having meetings in the virtual space. So I think that says loads about the long-term potential here. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yes. So as we talk about moving into the workplace, I know that a lot of--you know, I've been dealing over the last few weeks with people from all of the big, global tech companies, consulting companies, and it seems like a lot of them have a vision that there will be a set of interoperable platforms that are not at all game-oriented, but that are commerce oriented. And this could be a future of teleconferencing and global business. And so do you see how--well, let me ask this a different way. There has been a fair number of discussions about the appropriate legislation regarding the commons, the Internet, and whether, for example, firms should be forced to carry content because it's useful, generally. Is that a topic that you're looking at, in the context of the JEC? DAN MILLER: Could you repeat the last part there? In terms of content?
  18. 18. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Well, I think the issue is that I guess I actually have Christian feeding me notes. Christian, you want to ask a question? No, no. It's basically that right now we have all these virtual worlds that are basically walled gardens that, you go into one, you can deal with people-- DAN MILLER: Oh, okay. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: --in that one. You can't deal with others. It does seem like the future. I mean if virtual worlds becomes something like the Internet, then you'll be able to take assets from one world to another, for example. Now, one way legislators might go about this is simply to let industry work out its own solutions. Another way is, of course, to either try to enforce this or, frighteningly, for Congress to get in and see something bad that they see about this, and work against it or put up hurdles. So I'm just wondering if this whole set of issues is something that's on your radar screen. DAN MILLER: It's not on my radar screen. I suppose I see this as something similar to differences in computer operating systems. Congress doesn't mandate that. A program that works in Windows has to work in the Macintosh operating system and also has to work in Linux. And I think most members of Congress would shy away from that level of rollover technology. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Let me--actually, I just got a really interesting question
  19. 19. from--and I think I am pronouncing this right; it looks like, Dr. [Offset Cortez?]. And the question is, “How web savvy is the average Congressperson? I know that I deal with a lot of people in all sorts of walks of life, and I mention “virtual world,” and they have no idea what I'm talking about. Or else, once they figure it out, they start giggling. How hard is it going to be simply to educate Congress on what these worlds are and how to think about them?” DAN MILLER: Well, there's definitely a significant educational hurdle to overcome for members of Congress, and even with their staffs, to be honest. It's easier to get through to the staff than it is through to the members because the staff tend to be younger, and I think it's just sort of natural that the younger generations are a little bit more up to date with the latest technology than the older generations. I don't think there's necessarily anything surprising there. There are some members of Congress that are very savvy and very comfortable in digital environments in dealing with the Internet. Other members of Congress, not so much. Some members of Congress get involved because they see a political--or a policy, opportunity. So I don't know. And frankly, you know, one could ask if ignorance among members of Congress might not be a good thing. I'm not saying it is, but one could make that argument. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: You know you're actually--you know this is being broadcast live and archived on the web. So-- DAN MILLER: Yes. No, I'm aware. I'm not saying that that's a good thing or a bad thing; I'm just saying that one could ask that question.
  20. 20. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah. Now, you mentioned the JEC is something like a think tank, and we talked a while ago about your efforts to write some type of policy paper, or white paper, about this topic. Can you tell us where you stand on that? DAN MILLER: Well, we have been working on and off for most of the last year on the paper. It's sort of an on-and-off type of issue because Congress--you know, it's not the only issue that we have to deal with and there are a lot of competing policy questions that demand attention. So sometimes it has to be set aside while we take a look at the state of the macro economy or tax policy or what have you. So yes, there is a paper. I really can offer no guidance as to when it might be released. But let me also take this opportunity to say one thing, and that is when the JEC first announced its interest in virtual worlds and the taxation of virtual worlds about a year ago I think it was, there was some confusion and people saying that we, the Joint Economic Committee, and Jim Saxon, wanted to start taxing virtual worlds. I can tell you that that is not the case. If anything, the opposite is true. We are not looking to impose taxes. And frankly, my personal opinion is that the less government regulation you have over virtual worlds, the more the virtual worlds will thrive and develop, and you'll see a very broad and exciting range of applications develop. And I think in some ways the Joint Economic Committee's motivation in addressing or looking at virtual worlds is to help set the agenda to define the issue so that it doesn't pop up on the radar screen all of a sudden, and there's nothing out there, you know, for Congress to fall back on. So we want to try to sort of educate staff and members of Congress as to the
  21. 21. range of issues that are involved when addressing virtual worlds. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Let me ask: You know you're speaking to an audience here and online through SLCN.TV of hundreds of people who are active in virtual worlds who are developers, who are either legal scholars or economists. Is there anything that we can do to help to make legislation go in the direction that we, either individually or collectively would like to see? DAN MILLER: Absolutely. If you're in the United States, you know, you can feel free to write your Congressman and express your views. You know, mail the members of Congress receive in their offices still commands quite a bit of respect on Capitol Hill. And a good part of each member's staff is dedicated to handling mail. So mail is not just a lost cause. Trust me. It's taken very seriously on the Hill. I think I would also encourage people to contact me. If you have a view that you want to air or to share with me, or perspective, or an issue or anything that you think might be of interest, feel free to bring it to my attention. If you represent an organization and you want to see government regulate this, or not regulate that, again, you can send it to the JEC, or send it to me, or send it to your member of Congress. RICHARD BLOOMFIELD: Great. Well, I certainly appreciate your making the offer, and I hope you get inundated with email and phone calls from individuals and from organizations
  22. 22. who are interested in this issue. So, really, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today. I think this has really been very informative to us and hopefully it will give you some feedback as well. So we're going to sign off now. Those of you who are here on Metaversed Island, I'd like to point out that the Metaversed partners have locations right on Metaverse Island just outside the space where we are right now and so you can, therefore, just go take a look, talk with the representatives of the different firms there, and thank them for making these events possible. Join me in thanking, also, Dan Miller for being with us today. And actually I have a couple questions here. Someone's hoping for contact information for you. I know that if you just search “Joint Economic Committee” you get the web site, but if you're willing to pass along contact information, maybe you can do it by--ah, here it is. dan_miller@jec.senate.gov. So, again, thank you, Dan, for joining us. Thank you, all of you, for being here. Rob Bloomfield-- DAN MILLER: Thank you. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: --Beyers Sellers, signing off. Bye-Bye.
  23. 23. DAN MILLER: Thanks. Bye. [END OF AUDIO] Document: cor2005 Transcribed by: http://www.hiredhand.com Second Life Avatar: Transcriptionist Writer

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